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Fri, Mar

MOBILE MONEY INTEROPERABILITY TO FURTHER DRIVE FINANCIAL INCLUSION IN GHANA

Business & Economy

Over the past two decades, the Bank of Ghana has remained at the forefront of transforming Ghana's financial sector through extensive institutional and regulatory reforms. The restructuring process has transformed the payment systems and consolidated growth in the financial services industry with diversified and innovative products for financial inclusion. This is reflected in the World Bank Global Findex report released in April 2018 which revealed an increased share of adult-owing accounts in Ghana to 58 percent in 2017 from 41 percent in 2014 and 29 percent in 2011.

Over the past two decades, the Bank of Ghana has remained at the forefront of transforming Ghana's financial sector through extensive institutional and regulatory reforms. The restructuring process has transformed the payment systems and consolidated growth in the financial services industry with diversified and innovative products for financial inclusion. This is reflected in the World Bank Global Findex report released in April 2018 which revealed an increased share of adult-owing accounts in Ghana to 58 percent in 2017 from 41 percent in 2014 and 29 percent in 2011.

Notwithstanding the progress made, more than 40 percent of the adult population still remains unbanked. Consequently, the Bank of Ghana has taken additional measures to reform and strengthen the regulation and supervisory structures for efficient payment systems oversight. The main objective for the reforms is to leverage technology and digitisation to expand access, enhance efficiency and promote financial inclusiveness for mobilisation and intermediation of resources to support growth and poverty reduction.

As per its mandate, the Bank of Ghana has oversight responsibility of the financial market’s infrastructure comprising the Ghana’s Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system, Cheque Codeline Clearing (CCC) system, Ghana Automated Clearing House (GACH) system, National Biometric Smartcard Payment System - e-zwichTM, National Switching and Processing System - gh-linkTM, GhIPSS Instant Pay (GIP), Ghana’s Paper Payment Instrument Accreditation Scheme and the Mobile Money sub-sector.

Strengthening the Regulatory Framework for Financial Inclusion

Over the years, various regulations and guidelines have been implemented to strengthen and safeguard the payments and settlement systems in the country. This started with the enactment of the Payment Systems Act, (Act 662) in 2003 to provide for the establishment, operation and supervision of electronic and other payment, clearing and settlement systems. The Act also provides for the rights and responsibilities for transacting and intermediating parties. However, Act 662 did not make provision for emerging payment streams such as electronic money, prepaid cards, credit cards, electronic platforms, payment instruments, web acquiring devices, Automated Teller Machines and Financial Technology Firms (FinTechs). Riding on rapid changes in technology, the emergence of such innovative financial products and services rendered Act 662 inadequate to address risks emanating from these new forms of payment streams.

In 2008, the Bank of Ghana issued the Branchless Banking Guidelines (2008) to allow for the use of digital devices and retail agents (telcos, merchants, technology companies) as channels for delivering financial services. Subsequent diagnostic studies on the implementation of the Guidelines revealed some operational challenges which affected uptake in digital financial services.

To resolve the operational challenges of the branchless banking guidelines, the Bank of Ghana issued the Electronic Money Issuers and Agent Guidelines in July 2015, as a broader strategy to create an enabling regulatory environment for convenient, efficient and safe retail payment and fund transfers. The Electronic Money Guidelines allowed non-banks such as telecommunication companies to establish and manage electronic money businesses as separate entities under the BoG’s supervision. The Guidelines facilitated effective collaboration and strategic partnership between mobile money operators and banks to deliver financial services to the unbanked and under-banked through provision of products such as micro savings, credit, investments, insurance, pension and funds transfer.

The emergence of new payment streams and possible regulatory arbitrage have necessitated the review, amendment and consolidation of the Payment Systems Act, 2003 (Act 662) with the Electronic Money and Agents Guidelines, as well as other Directives and Notices issued on the subject into a Payment Systems and Services Bill 2018.

Broadly, the objective of the Payment Systems and Services Bill 2018 is to promote innovation in the design of payment products and services and engender competition in the electronic money business. The Bill is expected to open up the digital finance space to promote financial inclusion.
The Bill, gazetted on October 19, 2018 for Parliament’s consideration, has made provision for cyber security regulations and Information and Communication Technology standards to minimize cyber risk, as well as regulations for the operations of Fintechs. It will also require payment service providers to adhere to the Data Protection Act 2012 (Act 843) and meet prescribed regulatory standards.

Recent Developments in Payment Systems Space

Mobile Money Interoperability: As part of the Bank’s policy to transform the payment ecosystem, an interoperability project was implemented to boost the efficiency, accessibility and competition within the mobile money space. Under the project, disparate mobile money platforms were linked to each other through a central switch to facilitate funds transfer across mobile money networks. The system is also expected to integrate with the interbank payment systems infrastructure to create an integrated and interoperable digital retail payments ecosystem, and facilitate seamless funds transfer across payment systems. 

The first phase of the project which involved interoperability among the stakeholders in the mobile financial services value chain was implemented in May 2018. The project has the potential to stimulate uptake in mobile financial services and promote financial inclusion.

National Identification System: The banking industry, through the initiative of the Bank of Ghana, co-operated with the National Identification Authority (NIA) to implement a national identification system that meets the Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD) requirements of the banking sector. The identification system is based on biometric technology and would provide continuous verification access to banks at all times. The system is expected to minimize the incidence of identity fraud at point of transactions, enhance security of card-not-present transactions and provide reliable system for profiling the underserved and unbanked for financial services.  The NIA system is to provide nationwide coverage and therefore expected to be more suitable for promoting financial inclusion.

Migration to Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) Technology: Significant progress was made towards EMV migration in 2017 following the project launch in November 2016. Currently, most banks have completed the required processes and successfully produced gh-linkTM cards based on the EMV technology and standards. Liability shift for non-EMV compliant card transactions commenced on April 2, 2018. The purpose of the migration from magnetic strip cards to EMV cards was to enhance security in card payments.

Interest Payment on Mobile Money Float: Another major policy initiative undertaken by the Bank to scale up usage of mobile money services and also promote financial inclusion was the introduction of payment of interest on electronic money float held by banks. The Electronic Money Issuers Guidelines (2015) issued by the Bank of Ghana mandated banks to pay interest on their electronic-money float balances. The Guidelines stipulates that, 80 percent of the interest should be paid to customers while the remaining 20 percent is retained by the electronic money issuers. This was successfully implemented in 2016 when for the first time since the introduction of mobile money services in Ghana, electronic money holders formally received interest on their mobile money wallets.

Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa: The Bank has obtained the assistance of Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Africa, a United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)-funded institution, which has a broad objective of reducing poverty across sub Saharan Africa by building financial markets that are efficient, inclusive and robust. The primary aim of the FSD-assisted programme is to conduct a diagnostic study of the retail credit market and development of a template to collect dataset for monitoring of the credit market. This would help develop Ghana’s retail credit market, expand financial inclusion and increase access to credit. 

Financial Inclusion Through the Mobile Money Platform

The Mobile Money concept, introduced in 2009 under the Branchless Banking Guidelines (2008), has been the main driver of financial inclusion in Ghana. Its success is evident in the World Bank’s Global Findex Database 2017, which shows a significant increase in mobile money account ownership. For instance, mobile accounts grew from 13 percent in 2014 to 39 percent in 2017, compared with the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 21 percent in 2017. The growth of mobile money account ownership compared favourably with financial institution accounts which grew by 7 percentage points from 35 percent in 2014 to 42 percent in 2017.

Following the rapid growth in mobile money accounts, a range of payment service providers (PSPs) are now collaborating with financial institutions to develop innovative and affordable products and services for unbanked customers, including  digital savings, lending, and, investment services. On offer are online payment platforms, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) services, mobile banking services, Quick Response (QR) codes, money transfer services, deployment of Point of Sale (POS) devices, termination of inward remittances into mobile wallets, and agency banking.

The significant growth in the mobile money space has been driven by convenience in service delivery, expansion in mobile money agent network, strategic partnerships among payment service providers, public confidence and more importantly, the implementation of mobile money interoperability in the first half of 2018. 

Currently, the mobile money wallet is mainly used to transfer funds for payment of goods and services such as utility bills, salaries of some workers, remittances, micro-credit, savings and micro-insurance. Latest data on mobile money performance indicates its growing importance in the financial sector. For instance, the number of active mobile money accounts increased to 12,594,427 in the third quarter of 2018, from 991,780 in 2013. Similarly, total float balance increased significantly to GH¢2,240.28 million compared to GH¢62.82 million over the same comparative periods. Also, the average daily volume of mobile money transactions increased substantially from 111,928 in 2013 to 3,764,815 in the third quarter 2018. (See Table 1 and Chart 1)

In addition, the mobile money industry has created jobs for agents, service providers and other users including Fintech companies, merchants and retailers. The number of active mobile money agents increased from 10,404 in 2013 to 190,265 at the end of September 2018. A survey conducted by the Bank of Ghana shows that there are over seventy-one (71) fintechs providing both front and back end services to banks in the digital space in the country.

 

Table 1: Mobile Money Data (2013-2018)

Indicators

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Jan -Sep 2017

Jan –Sep 2018

2018

 % Growth

 
 

Total number of mobile voice subscription (Cumulative)1

28,026,482

30,360,771

35,008,387

38,305,078

37,445,048

37,445,048

40,089,004*

                       7.06

 

Registered mobile money accounts (Cumulative)

4,393,721

7,167,542

13,120,367

19,735,098

23,947,437

22,010,756

                         31,431,518

                     42.80

 

Active mobile money accounts2

991,780

2,526,588

4,868,569

8,313,283

11,119,376

10,578,039

                         12,594,427

                     19.06

 

Registered Agents (Cumulative)

17,492

26,889

79,747

136,769

194,688

163,869

                               353,105

                   115.48

 

Active Agents3

10,404

20,722

56,270

107,415

151,745

140,288

                               190,265

                     35.62

 

Total volume of  transactions

40,853,559

113,179,738

266,246,537

550,218,427

981,564,563

685,674,266

             1,027,794,483.50

                     49.90

 

Total value of transactions (GH¢ mn)

2,652.47

12,123.89

35,444.38

78,508.90

155,844.84

109,133.60

         159,921.84

                     46.54

 

Balance on Float (GH¢’million)

62.82

223.33

547.96

1,257.40

2,321.07

2,157.15

             2,240.28

                       3.85

 

 

*Total mobile voice subscription figure is as at July, 2018 (NCA)
 Currently Three (3) Mobile Money Operators offer mobile money services (MTN, AirtelTigo and VODAFONE)
1. Source: National Communications Authority (NCA)
2. The number of accounts which transacted at least once in the 90 days prior to reporting
3. The number of agents who transacted at least once in the 30 days prior to reporting

Chart 1: Mobile Money Trends

 

Harmonizing the gains of financial inclusion

Ghana's payment ecosystem has improved significantly over the last two decades, and continues to evolve to meet the developmental needs of the country. The payment systems development is being driven by a combination of factors such as economic, financial technology advancements, and strategic partnerships between financial and payment service providers in the delivery of efficient and convenient services.

The gains made towards financial inclusion through the mobile money sector are tremendous. The awareness levels, confidence and trust demonstrated by patrons of mobile money services, especially those in the informal sector who account for the larger proportion of the unbanked population, supports the Bank of Ghana's view that mobile money operations is deepening financial inclusion. The Bank of Ghana is confident that mobile money operations would be strengthened further and supported with overall development of the payment and settlement systems.

The Bank continues to provide the leadership role through the relevant regulatory frameworks, institutional reforms and strict supervision to ensure safety in all financial transactions. The omnibus Payment Systems and Services Bill which is currently before Parliament for consideration is expected to further improve the regulatory environment and provide additional support for emerging digital financial services while minimizing related threats associated with financial inclusiveness. Additionally, the Bank will take proactive actions to safeguard customer funds, and promote an enabling environment for innovative products and services to thrive, while ensuring the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the payment system.

 

 

 

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